In 2009, the World Floor Covering Association and the Carpet and Rug Institute agreed to share the cost of the development and writing of the ANSI Standard for Carpet Installation. ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, was founded in 1919 as a non-profit membership organization that acts primarily as a standards coordinating and approval body. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification will manage the development and forward standards written by our industry for ANSI approval.
These standards will have input from all the significant players in our industry. CFI installers, installers representing various union affiliations, inspectors, carpet cleaners, tool and sundries manufacturers, carpet manufacturers, CRI and WFCA are a part of this process.
Carpet installer of America, your position as a professional has now been raised to the level of standardization. These standards will require additional training and that is why I state that now is your time to focus on the future and your part in being the first generation of carpet installers with recognized standards to follow.
Why CFI? Why Now?
“A man who works with his hands is a laborer, a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman, but a man who works with his hands, his brain and his heart, is an artist.” -- Louis Nizer, American lawyer (1902 – 1994)
Times are very challenging in today’s economy. Take advantage of these slow periods to evaluate your business strategy and what steps can be taken to improve your business and installation skills. I am a strong advocate of CFI and the tremendous value of a CFI membership. For those of you who may disagree, please take time to read this article. My hope is that I can help others see that CFI membership is an outstanding value. CFI represents all installers who become a part of the organization; independent and union affiliated.
It’s been almost 17 years since the group of eleven founding installers formed the International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI). Through this organization, tens of thousands of flooring installers have been certified and trained. There are several individuals in this organization that have given over 200 weekends of their lives on a volunteer basis to train flooring installers. Thirty have donated fifty or more weekends; again all volunteer. This type of commitment is rare in any industry, but truly remarkable.
Where the image of a “flooring installer,” in many cases is a rusty van, sweat pants, tattoos, body piercings and poor customer service, CFI’s goal as stated by Jim Walker, “is to create a level-playing field for all players,” where flooring installers are appreciated by manufacturers and dealers. Under Jim’s leadership, professional installers are recognized today by the entire industry and groups are working together for the common goal of increasing awareness of installation professionalism that in the past would not have occurred. With CFI, installers have a voice in the industry that is listened to and respected by all. CFI installers hold prominent positions throughout our industry. CFI is known for the finest of skilled and personable trainers. Through trial and error, CFI has developed written, oral and hands-on tests that are very challenging for all involved.
What I have discovered about CFI is not what CFI can do for you. It is what YOU can do for CFI. By giving; you receive. That is the heart and soul of the organization; we are a family of people who share responsibility for promoting installation excellence.
Has CFI made mistakes? Absolutely! We started certifying and because we wanted to reward those who chose to demonstrate their skills; some installers were awarded higher certifications than deserved. We learned along the way from our mistakes and the testing requirements and written tests were reformatted. Annually, the CFI programs are updated. Our current Commercial-II test and interview are much more challenging than the earlier version of the Master’s test. The interview portion gives the C-II candidates the opportunity to tell us how they set up commercial jobs, stage products, set-up phases, prioritize installation schedules, handle addendums, schedule changes and production goals.
When I originally certified as a CFI Master, my hands-on portion of the test took less than 5 hours. Last year, I took my Master-II test and in 2-½ days of testing, I spent a total of 27 hours completing the requirements of the written, oral and skills tests. Of this time, 6-8 hours were required for written tests, blueprints and interview. The balance consisted of hands-on skills from transitions, seaming, sewing birdcage steps, double-glue skills and much more. It was difficult to say the least! I challenge you to test yourself against these requirements or talk to someone who has achieved this level of professionalism.
Now, let’s talk about training opportunities. The best compressed training available in our industry occurs each year at the CFI Convention. Last year, MAPEI covered moisture and its effect on installation; Armstrong presented heat welding of heat sensitive urethane sheet goods; and Romanoff Flooring Installation (RFI) and Custom Decorators Inc (CDI) shared seminars on residential and commercial workroom operations. Jon Namba and Robert Varden demonstrated the techniques required to correct out-of-tolerance situations in bow, skew, edge hook and pattern elongation at the patterned carpet workshop. Husqvarna brought in over $200,000 worth of surface prep and concrete polishing equipment to teach principles of grinding. Johnsonite provided tips on rubber floor installation; DuoFast brought in new concepts of tackstrip installation and established a forum in which CFI installers critiqued the development of new tools. CFI installers have the opportunity to network with others, evaluate new tools, concepts and installation techniques every year at the Convention.
Gary Goodrich, inventor of the Evn Seam Iron and holder of numerous patents, shared the process of product development and requirements for obtaining a patent. Schluter provided instructions for the correct installation of the Kerdi Shower System. Congoleum shared techniques of working with Dura Ceramic. CFI’s good friend, Jim Lee, Executive Director of FIANA and a member of the CFI Board of Directors challenged all CFI installers to continue promoting quality installation and shared ideas in which this can be done effectively.
Every year, one of the highlights of the CFI Convention is our WFCA sponsored Leadership Conference. For many years, Chris Davis and the WFCA have provided us with the best motivational speakers in the nation. Past conventions have included the woven carpet installation workshop, custom area rugs and fiber optics, hand sewing, stair upholstery, preparation for the Master-II exam and virtually every topic that involves floor coverings and installation. The CFI Convention is open to everyone.
Where I find one of the great values with my CFI membership is the list of CFI installers on the web. Let’s compare the CFI listing to the yellow pages. My yellow page ad costs $490 monthly. This is an annual fee of $5,880. Most yellow page leads are price shopping to get an installation cost lower than our retail outlets charge.
In 2010, your CFI dues are $150 annually, plus $225 for the WFCA membership. This is an annual fee of $375 for which you get a $500 WFCA educational scholarship which pays 100% of all CFI programs. THIS IS A GAIN OF $125 in value! You are listed on the CFI website and when you get a call from a customer, they are not price shopping. They are VALUE SHOPPING! They know you are certified and your costs of doing business are more than the non-certified installer. This is what the designers and architects use when they need to be represented by a professional. Once you get the opportunity to service the “value-oriented consumer” vs. the “price-shopping customer,” your profits go up.
First Timers receive special attention at the CFI Convention. We know that the excellence that comes with being a CFI installer goes beyond what you can learn in 3-5 days at a convention or two days at a certification or training. It is a seed that must be nurtured; it requires exposure to all of the great installers, all of our associates and our partners that sponsor the annual CFI jacket. CFI is a team effort that involves many in the industry. Our installers must reflect the skills of our founders and the commitment to excellence of the Certified Flooring Installers.
The CFI Family is unique. We have a common goal; be the best that you can be; give your customer value and service above their expectations, and ALWAYS work with your hands, brain and heart on EVERY job.
If you are interested in becoming part of our organization or attending any CFI function, send me a note to discuss the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.